Monday 31 May 2021

Books read in May

It seems that May was quite a good reading month for me, number-wise anyway, nine books read. Quality-wise it was also 'good' but not amazing. That's fine, every month cannot be chock full of wonderful books, life just doesn't work like that and I'm happy with my choices for May.

31. Bats in the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac 

32. Fat Dogs and French Estates by Beth Haslam 

33. Case Histories - Kate Atkinson. I planned to review this but never did get to it. It was a pretty good private eye yarn, the first in the author's Jackson Brodie series. Complicated, lots of twists and turns. I haven't decided yet whether I'll read more.

34. Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall 

35. A Death in Calabria by Michele Giuttari. A Mafia in New York and Calabria, story. Not exactly terrible but not a series I'll be continuing with.

36. Four Cheeks to the Wind by Mary Bryant 

37. Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman 

38. The Aberdyll Onion by Victor Canning. Charming short stories, mainly mysteries with a twist.

39. My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

Zelda is in her late thirties and has reached a stage where she doesn't know what to do anymore. Her small retail business collapsed, she can't seem to find someone to share her life with and she has no home of her own. Her best mate, Lennie, is not much better off and the two decide to honour a pact they made at uni that if they weren't married or with someone by the age of forty, they would marry each other. Not that either of them expected to be doing it in Sicily! The mayor of a town in Sicily, dying for lack of residents, has advertised for people to come and live there. Zelda and Lennie find themselves with a motley group of Brits in an old farmhouse wondering where their renovated homes are, why the residents seem to hate them so much and if they will ever get to live the Sicilian dream. This was a fun read, undemanding, but interesting with its history of how lemons are grown all over the island and made into Lemoncello, although those are not apparently made with ordinary lemons. I enjoyed the romantic aspect, hated the villain of the piece as I was supposed to, and of course it made me want to go to Sicily even more. Oh well, one day perhaps. 

So, I realise I made a mistake by reading that last book in May because I put it on my list for the 20 Books of Summer challenge which doesn't begin until tomorrow so I'll have to change that one. Never mind.

I've done my usual travelling this month, been around the world twice with Prisoners of Geography and Four Cheeks to the Wind, spent time in France (twice), Italy (also twice), and a fair bit of time here in the UK solving mysteries. Not a bad month overall. I wonder what joys June will bring?

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Another catching up post

Well, I have been reading - seven books so far this month - just not talking all that much about said books, so time for a bit of a catch up.

Since my last post three books have gone unremarked, starting with A Death in Calabria by Michele Giuttari. This was basically a 'bring down a local Mafia ring' sort of book. It wasn't bad but lacked any kind of real depth and read a bit like a series of reports, starting in New York and finishing in Calabria in Italy. It kept my interest but is not a series I plan to read more of, although I did learn a fair bit about how the Mafia operates. 

A non-fiction travel memoir, Four Cheeks to the Wind by Mary Bryant was more enjoyable.

Mary Bryant and her husband Warren make the decision to cycle around the world (as you do). They travel across Europe via France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and then fly to India, the intervening countries such as Iran and Afghanistan, being far too dangerous to cycle through. From India and Sri Lanka they fly to Australia. That might seem an odd route but they were doing it this way to try and avoid brutal summer heat and humidity in the Indo-China countries. Huge amount of detail in this 400 page book - I read it on my Kindle Fire and it took me ages. For me that was both good and bad. Good in that I learnt a lot about every country they visited, especially its people and the various cuisines. Bad in that I felt a bit bogged down by it all at times. But goodness me some of the images described are still with me, this book gives a real flavour of every country, I would say anyone thinking of cycling around the world should read this book but it is about 15 years old and some things will have changed. My favourite sections were Europe, especially Italy and Turkey, and Australia... Mary and Warren were taken by surprise by how much they loved areas like Tasmania. Overall what sticks with me was how friendly the couple found nearly everyone they came across... which gladdens the heart rather. 

After that I was ready for a light read so I settled on Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman which was a free Amazon 'Prime Reading' book.

Fern is married to Aiden and their married life is pretty much mapped out, jobs, their home, eventually children, and she is very happy with that. Then they have a lottery win. What to do with the money? Aiden wants to go off backpacking in Australia but knows that Fern is afraid of flying and sea voyages so suggests a sort of marriage gap-year. He will go and do his thing and she hers. Which is how Fern ends up in Provence volunteering at a retreat for people to unwind and learn new skills. Relaxing, gentle stuff and Fern is hoping to pick up her painting where she left off before she got married. But she reckons without the moody artist running the place, Nico, who sees something in Fern that she never knew she had. I thought this was delightful. I fell in love with the retreat, a chateau in Provence, which sounded wonderful. Lots of good characterisation and a good list of interesting people added to the enjoyment. My one small niggle was that sometimes Fern's dialogue sounded a bit textbook, rehearsed little speeches kind of thing, I found myself thinking that people don't really speak like that. Otherwise this was a thoroughly good wallow, my second book by this author.

I'm currently reading this:


The Aberdyll Onion and other mysteries by Victor Canning is a book of short stories, some of them crime based other just quirky with a twist. I recently read his Mr. Finchley Discovers His England and enjoyed its quirkiness and this anthology is pretty much the same, beautifully written too.

To be honest, I'm treading water a bit until the 20 Books of Summer challenge starts on the 1st. June.

Monday 17 May 2021

20 Books of Summer


Most summers I see various people doing the 20 Books of Summer (the sign-up post is there) reading challenge but have never attempted it myself. I thought this year I would join in and see how far I can get with it. 

It's being hosted by 746 Books and the aim is to list 20 books of your own choosing and see if you can read them between the 1st. June and the 1st. September. 

There aren't many rules, you can drop a book if you like, or drop your number from 20 to 15 or 10, whatever suits you. Follow the link to the challenge site to for a complete list. 

So anyway, without further ado, these are my 20 books.

1. Persuasion - Jane Austen

2. The Shell Seekers - Rosamunde Pilcher

3. Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

4. The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes

5. The Book Collectors of Daraya - Delphine Minoui

6. The Path to the Sea - Liz Fenwick

7. The Towers of Trebizond - Rose Macaulay

8. The End of the Road - Jack Cooke

9. Wanderers - Keri Andrews

10. Off the Map - Alistair Bonnet

11. Faring to France on a Shoe - Val Poore

12. A Borrowing of Bones - Paula Munnier

13. The Mauritius Command - Patrick O'Brian

14. A Quiet Life in the Country - T.E. Kinsey

15. One Summer in Crete - Nadia Marks

16. The Other Bennet Sister - Janice Hadlow

17. Through Siberia by Accident - Dervla Murphy

18. People Missing in the Woods - Steph Young

19. The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths

20. My Lemon Grove Summer - Jo Thomas


OK, so I doubt I'll manage to read all of those in 3 months. I certainly think 10 is doable though and who knows, maybe more. I've tried to be careful in my choices, choosing books I'd planned to read fairly soon anyway, and a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, real books and Kindle reads. Plus, I've attempted to list lighter reads rather than anything deep or depressing, though it could be argued that People Missing in the Woods will not exactly be light-hearted. And of course, it wouldn't be me if there wasn't a load of travelling going on in most of the books (not all).

 Anyway, whatever happens... it ought to be fun, didn't it?

Saturday 15 May 2021

A warning

 Ok, so I had an email from Blogger to say that they had deleted one of my posts because:

' Your post entitled 'Just finished, currently reading, new books' was flagged to us for review. We have 
determined that it violates our guidelines and deleted the post.'

' Your content has violated our malware and viruses policy. Please follow 
the community guidelines link in this email to learn more.'

As you can imagine panic ensued because they then said this:

' We encourage you to review the full content of your blog posts to make 
sure that they are in line with our standards as additional violations 
could result in the termination of your blog.'


Anyway, they had indeed deleted a post that I posted on the 4th. March, entitled, 'Just finished, currently reading, new books'. It had several book reviews, including Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, and a photo of new books and nice comments and discussion and it's just gone. And, stupidly, I feel like I've lost an arm.

First of all I thought I should change my Google password (although I only did that recently) but then I thought it best to Google, 'Malware attached to blog posts' first, and I found this:

Malware and spam in blogs

And saw the bit at the bottom regarding spam comments. I headed over to check the comments to that post which are still there and 'lightbulb moment', sitting there was a spam comment I had not deleted.  I deleted it of course, but too late, the post has disappeared into the ether.

So my question is this, has this happened to any of you with a Blogspot blog? Does anyone happen to know if this is all that's required to stop my blog being deleted... to make sure I delete any spam comments that might have suspicious links? (I usually do but that one escaped my notice.)

And also... this is to warn anyone who is not aware that this sort of thing can happen. I'm borderline traumatised... an over reaction I know. But I've had my bookblog since 2007 and the idea that all that work could just disappear without my say so is freaking me out quite frankly. 

Any ideas or comments on this very welcome.

UPDATE: Message from Blogspot, they have apparently reevaluated the offending post and reinstated it. I think I should've stayed in bed this morning...

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Catching up a bit

As usual I'm waaay behind with reviews, four to be precise, so I'm going to do a quick run-down of three of the books I've been reading since the beginning of the month.

First up, Bats in the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac.

Author, Bruce Attleton, has disappeared. His wife and friends all thought he was on a trip to Paris but at a recent dinner party they had all been discussing how you would get rid of a murdered body and two of his friends become concerned enough at his lack of communication to investigate. The police, in the form of Chief Inspector MacDonald,  are called in but they struggle to get anywhere at first. It turns out there's blackmail involved, not to mention infidelity, mad artists, impersonation... and an old, rambling house, 'The Belfry' in London's Notting Hill. It's quite complicated to be honest and I struggled a bit, not only to keep up with the intricacies of the plot, but to remember who was who, and what relation they bore to everyone else and what was going on. Nevertheless I enjoyed it a lot (no harm in giving an addled brain a good workout) because E.C.R. Lorac's writing is never anything less than superb and I will read anything at all written by her. I wondered if this book was the origin of the term, 'Bats in the Belfry', meaning mad or eccentric, but apparently not, it's thought that that term originated in America at the beginning of the 20th. century.

Next, Fat Dogs and French Estates, a non-fiction book, by Beth Haslam.

The author, Beth Haslam, and her husband, Jack, decide to retire to France. They enjoy shooting game and want to buy a house with land, including plenty of woodland, so they can start a shooting business. Sounds pretty straightforward? Er... no. It seems Estate Agents are the same the world over... you tell them what you want and they try to bamboozle you into thinking something entirely the opposite is precisely what you asked for. Beth lines up lots of viewings and her and husband and the two dogs, Biff and Sam, set off on a very long road-trip. Their experiences are catalogued in this, part one, of what is, I think, a four book series telling of their adventures in France. I loved it. Partly because some of their journey was familiar to me from our own trips to France but also it's beautifully written in a very funny, self-deprecating manner and the dogs are as much a star of the show as the humans. Plus, the eccentricities of the owners of the houses they view are beyond belief at times, and the estate agents are not far behind. I will definitely be reading on in this series. 


Lastly, Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, another non-fiction.

Geography was probably my favourite subject at school, apart from possibly Maths, so this one was a bit of a must-get for me when I spotted it on Goodreads. It concerns Geopolitics, which looks at the way international affairs can be viewed and understood through geographical factors. It stands to reason really, except that I'd never given it much thought until I read Krakatoa by Simon Winchester wherein he discusses that quite a lot. Tim Marshall considers the history and politics of various areas of the globe from the point of view of their rivers, mountains, seas, plains and so on: Russia, China, The USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, The Arctic, Korea and Japan and Latin America. The most interesting for me was The Arctic - with the ice rapidly disappearing who's going to lay claim to the waters? Answer, probably Russia and of course there's absolutely 'no' potential for conflict there! I appreciated the author's attempt to explain The Middle East and its divisions and wars, because I gather even experts have trouble with that. Really the author made me think about things that I never had before, or more about things I was only vaguely aware of. Some of it was scary, especially when discussing the potential for conflict just about 'everywhere'. It made me wonder how there are any humans left on the planet, let alone 7 billion of us. An interesting read. The author states, 'Geography has always been a prison', and I understand now what that means.

So, four down, one to go. I shall do a longer review of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson I think. Interesting book.